(38-24-7) Minnesota Wild vs. Nashville Predators (43-21-7)
7 P.M. | Bridgestone Arena
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game | Nissan Pregame: 6:30 P.M. Tickets
After a four-game road trip out west, the Nashville Predators return home to Bridgestone Arena tonight to host the Minnesota Wild on St. Patrick's Day. The Preds finished the trip to Arizona and California with a 2-2-0 record, including victories over the Coyotes and Kings.
Nashville fell in their most recent contest, coming up on the wrong end of a 4-2 final in Anaheim on Sunday night.
The Predators take to the ice tonight on St. Patrick’s Day for the ninth time in franchise history, making St. Patrick’s Day the third-most, played-on holiday in the team’s history (10 games on New Year’s Day, nine games on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day). All-time, Nashville is 4-4-(0)-0 on March 17. Two of the holiday wins came in back-to-back years (2000 and 2001) against the Coyotes, with the other two victories coming against Dallas (2007) and Boston (2011). The Preds have never faced the Wild before on St. Patrick’s Day and last played on the holiday in 2013 (at Edmonton).
Preds defenseman Roman Josi tallied his 12th goal of the campaign on Sunday against the Ducks, moving him within one of tying his career-high goal output, 13 set in 2013-14. Josi’s 49 points (12g-37a) this season are first among Preds blueliners and put him just five back from Nashville’s scoring lead (54 points). Among defensemen League wide, Josi is fifth in points and five back from the top spot in defensive scoring. His 37 assists tie him for third in the category among defensemen and his +15 plus-minus is in the NHL’s Top 20 defenders.
This season, Josi has blocked 194 shots, a mark that leads the Preds and is second overall in the NHL. Last Thursday in San Jose, the 6-1, 192-pound defenseman blocked a game-high seven shots which tied a career high that he has hit three times before.
Craig Smith tallied his 22nd goal of the season on Saturday night in Los Angeles, tying James Neal, who did not play on Saturday or Sunday due to an upper-body injury, for the team lead in goals this season. With 22 goals in 71 games played, Smith has scored four more goals this season than at the same point last season, a season where he went on to set a career high in the category (24 goals, 79 games played in 2013-14).
The Madison, Wis., native is one of six Preds to have appeared in all 71 of the team’s games this season and has 13 points (8g-5a) in his last 15 games.
Pekka Rinne made 23 saves against the Kings on Saturday to win his 200th career NHL game in his 370th appearance, all of which have been as a member of the Nashville Predators. Rinne has been in net for one-third of the Predators all-time victories, as his 200th win was also the Preds’ 600th as a franchise.
This season, the 6-5, 205-pound netminder is second in the NHL with 37 wins and is in the Top Five in the League in both save percentage (.926) and goals-against average (2.11). Despite missing eight games due to injury this season, Rinne still ranks in the Top 10 among netminders in games played this season (55). He is the only goaltender to have played 10 or more overtime frames and maintain a 1.000 save percentage and a 0.00 goals-against average (13 overtimes played, 27 saves).
After a rocky start to the season, Minnesota has been on an impressive pace as of late, going 7-3-0 in their last 10, good enough to currently sit in the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference with 83 points.
Zach Parise leads all Wild skaters in goals (27) and points (53), while both Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu have tallied 31 helpers apiece. Parise, Pominville, Koivu and Thomas Vanek have all eclipsed the 40-point mark this season. Nino Niederreiter is second on the team in goals with 22 and former Preds defenseman Ryan Suter has 30 assists on the campaign.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who had a short stint with Nashville last season, has put up spectacular numbers since joining Minnesota via trade on Jan. 14. Through 27 games in a Wild sweater this season, Dubnyk has gone 20-5-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and five shutouts. Dubnyk has started 27-consecutive games for Minnesota.
Minnesota's visit to Nashville on Tuesday is only the Preds’ second game against a Central Division opponent in the month of March. After Tuesday’s game, Nashville won’t face another divisional opponent until Saturday, April 4, the first of four-consecutive Central Division games to close out the regular season. Overall this season, Nashville is 15-6-3 and 9-3-0 on home ice against Central Division foes.
Tonight's contest in Nashville between the two clubs is the second get-together in less than three weeks and the fourth of five meetings this season between the two Central Division opponents. The final matchup between the Division rivals will take place on April 9, the Predators regular-season home finale. All-time, Nashville is 27-18-(5)-6 against Minnesota and 15-7-(3)-1 on Bridgestone Arena ice.
Predators Game Day Video:Preds Players: Mike Ribeiro, Colin Wilson and Seth Jones
What to Watch for: Brent and Willy's Breakdown
Coach Presser: Head Coach Peter Laviolette
Morning Skate Update:
Forward James Neal was absent from the skate; the winger has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury. Coach Laviolette said after the session that Neal remains day-to-day.
Fellow forward Eric Nystrom remains out with a lower-body injury.
Nashville Morning Skate Lines:
Forsberg – Ribeiro – Smith
Wilson – Fisher – Santorelli
Cullen – Jarnkrok – Stalberg
Bourque – Gaustad – Beck
Josi – Weber
Jones – Franson
Ekholm – Ellis
Extra: Bartley – Volchenkov
Minnesota Projected Lines:
Niederreiter - Koivu - Stewart
Parise - Granlund - Pominville
Vanek - Coyle - Fontaine
Bergenheim - Brodziak - Haula
Suter - Spurgeon
Leopold - Folin
Brodin - Dumba